HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

This Week in Racing: Magnum Moon delivers in Arkansas

Undefeated and favored for the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, Magnum Moon delivered in impressive fashion, just as the other big names on the 2018 Kentucky Derby trail have of late. One of four big prep winners from the barn of Todd Pletcher, it was a four-length victory which cemented his place to be one of the top choices for next month's Run for the Roses.

The Curse of Apollo, in which no horse, 
without having raced at 2, has won the Kentucky Derby since 1882, has been talked about for a long time. In recent years, with the likes of Curlin and Bodemeister, it seemed to be that the once unthinkable would eventually happen. Now, in 2018, we have our strongest contingent of potential curse-breakers in modern racing. Justify has rightly piqued the interest of all race fans with his three strong wins to begin his career in California, and more experienced than him, we have this son of Malibu Moon.

Sensing a slow pace unfolding in Saturday's big race, Luis Saez overcame some early tight quarters to send his talented mount right to the lead. From there, it was Magnum Moon's race to win. He made his decisive thrust at the top of the lane, and this year's Arkansas Derby was as good as over. Racing greenly down the lane, while drifting out several paths, he was still able to pull away with ease from a solid group which included Quip, Solomini, and Combatant. Now 4-for-4, Magnum Moon deserves to be one of the marquee names in an absolutely loaded Derby field.

What can you say about Winx that hasn't already been said? She did it again on Saturday, absolutely blitzing her competition in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick. Last early, the sensational daughter of Street Cry was handled with supreme confidence by her regular rider, Hugh Bowman, before tipping widest of all for the stretch run. Or in the case of Winx, stretch explosion. As we've come to expect, the great mare accelerated right on by her Australian competition, on the way to another easy victory. In so doing, she raised her incredible winning streak to 25, matching the feat of the great sprinter, Black Caviar. It was also her 18th career Group 1 victory. Could you imagine if a great American champion ever raced so often? Yes, ZATT's Star of the Week is ... Winx!

Speaking of female turf stars, did you see how Sistercharlie returned to the races on Saturday at Keeneland? First, a little background on the Chad Brown-trained import ... A 4-year-old bred in Ireland and raced in France, Sistercharlie was one of the best young fillies in Europe before coming to America in 2017. She only got in one start last year, just missing in the rich Belmont Oaks, before suffering from a serious illness. Now healthy, after nearly a year away, she put on a show in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley. Defeating a deep and talented field, she sprinted away from the rest in devastating fashion. I have no hesitation in calling her the best turf female I have seen in the U.S. this year. Pointing out his standing as America's top turf trainer, Sistercharlie led a 1-2-3 for Chad Brown.

My Boy Jack
is on the points bubble no more. Validating strong performances in both the Southwest Stakes and the Louisiana Derby, the Keith Desormeaux-trained son of Creative Cause uncorked his patented rally to just get by the talented Telekinesis to win the Keeneland's Lexington Stakes, under a well-timed ride by Kent Desormeaux. A stakes winner on the turf at 2, My Boy Jack has proven to be a very consistent late runner. Good enough in most years to warrant strong consideration in the Kentucky Derby, but with so many good ones this year, I think a big showing on May 5 may be too much to expect.

Magnum Moon was undoubtedly the star of the show, but there were plenty of other highlights from the Racing Festival of the South at Oaklawn Park. On Friday, the big female races produced a pair of upsets. A fantastic finish in the Fantasy saw Sassy Sienna and Wonder Gadot put away the speedy Amy's Challenge in the stretch, before battling it out all the way to the wire. The photo revealed Sassy Sienna, at 11-1, to be a scant nose in front of her rival as the pair of 3-year-old fillies hit the finish line. Trained by Brad Cox, Sassy Sienna will join stablemate Monomoy Girl as Kentucky Oaks starters. The latter figures to be the favorite on May 4.

Two races later there was the curious case of Unique Bella, who visited Oaklawn Park for the first time to be bet down to 1-5 in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom. Breaking poorly, she lost valuable position at the start, before going after the early leader, Farrell. Intent on the lead, the Champion Female Sprinter of 2017 took over and briefly looked like she might be on her way, but never had the needed strong punch as the field hit the stretch. Instead it was the second choice, Unbridled Mo, who had all the answers, going by rather easily on her way to a 2 1/4-length score. The break probably cost the prohibitive choice, but still it was a disappointing result for a mare with so much talent.

Last but certainly not least came the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap on the Arkansas Derby undercard. An interesting affair for older males on paper, it turned into a two-horse race, with City of Light holding off an ultra game Accelerate late for his third straight notable win. A lightly raced son of Quality Road,
City of Light had won a pair of Grade 1 races going seven furlongs in his last two for trainer, Mike McCarthy, but on Saturday he proved to be more than just a sprinter. The win is expected to catapult him East for an even bigger test in the prestigious Met Mile at Belmont Park

Both from the West Coast and coming from outside post positions, City of Light and Accelerate left the others far behind in an impressive display. The unlucky loser gave away weight and demonstrated a ton of heart to come back at the winner for much of the stretch, in a race that finished more than a full second faster than did the easy win by Malibu Moon in the Arkansas Derby.

Sadly, Bill Nack passed away on Friday after a battle with Cancer. A sports writer of great renown, he will forever be remembered by me as the greatest turf writer ever to author an article. He wrote the book on Secretariat, literally, which seems only fitting, as the University of Illinois grad was the Secretariat of racing writers. As a narrator, he could bring on instant goosebumps, and although I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person, many friends who have, without exception, told me what a great guy he was. Nack was 77-years-old. Rest in Peace.


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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